Aubergine is surely the most magical of all vegetables. Stacks of shiny purple orbs sit squat and full of promise everywhere down Rye Lane,* and a particularly good looking specimen will seduce me at least once a week. When I first started learning to cook, the aubergine was also my first big disappointment – I had no idea how to cook it and my inexperienced hand left the poor thing tough-skinned and slimy. Thank goodness I persevered. Just consider a life without fish fragrant aubergines or melanzane alla parmigiana.
‘Burning’ aubergine opens the door on a whole new world for fanatics; you dump it on the gas ring of the hob, turn it every so often and then find that the inside of your charred, collapsed, steaming black vegetable has transformed from white and woolly to smoky, creamed mush.
Ottolenghi mixes it with yoghurt, garlic, lemon and pomegranate molasses and who am I to argue? It’s perfect. I’ve eaten it with lunch for a week and not got bored. It also goes spectacularly well with this lamb.
The lamb works best if you really get in with your hands and massage the rack with those spices. Leave it overnight if you have time. Minted, pistachio studded cous cous cooked in stock makes excellent bedrock and the burnt aubergine sauce is cooling and sharp yet sweet, with that curious addictive quality that pomegranate molasses brings.
One of my favourite meals of the past few weeks.
Moroccan Spiced Lamb Rack with Burnt Aubergine Sauce
For the aubergine sauce, go here.
For the lamb
1 lamb rack, about 8 chops
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp dried mint
Pinch of ground cloves
1 clove crushed garlic
2 tbsps olive oil
Mix together all the spices, garlic, oil and a little salt and pepper. Rub this over the rack, really working it in and leave overnight in the fridge. Allow to come to room temperature before cooking.
To cook your rack, preheat your oven to 250C. Sear the lamb rack, fat side down for about 4 minutes then turn over for another few minutes. Put the rack in the oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your rack. Mine was only just cooked and I left it in for 15 minutes. Rest the rack for another 15 minutes and then carve into mini chops.
* My favourite shop on the whole stretch is Khan’s – post coming up.